When Is the Medicare Open Enrollment Period?

When is the Medicare Open Enrollment Period?

The Medicare Open Enrollment period is terminology that many people often use to refer to the end of the year period during which you can change medical and prescription plans. However, there is definitely some serious confusion about this period and some misuse of the term. This is, at least in part, due to the enormous amount of marketing the insurance companies do during this time of year. So, let’s clear up the Medicare open enrollment period confusion.medicare open enrollment period

Medicare Open Enrollment: When You First Turn 65 or Start Medicare

The actual Medicare open enrollment period is when you first turn 65 or go on Medicare Part B. During this time period, you have open enrollment into a Medigap (Medicare Supplement) plan. This open enrollment period lasts for 6 months starting with the first day of the month you turn 65 (or your Part B effective date if that date is later). During this time, you cannot be made to answer any health questions or undergo any medical underwriting to be approved on a Medigap plan.

Likewise, when you turn 65 or start on Medicare Part B, you have an initial election period, during which you can select a Part D plan (prescription drug plan) without restriction or penalty. This initial election period lasts for 7 months – the month you turn 65 and three months on either side of that month. During this time, you can select any Part D plan without restriction or penalty.

If you are opting to go with a Medicare Advantage plan, you get the same initial election period as detailed above – 7 months including the month of your 65th birthday and three months on either side of that month.

So, What is the Annual Medicare Enrollment Period?

The period that occurs annually, at the end of each year, is actually the “annual election period” or AEP. This period does not apply at all to Medigap policies (Medicare Supplements). On the contrary, this period only applies to Part D and Part C (Medicare Advantage).medicare annual election period and open enrollment

The annual election period runs from October 15 to December 7. During the AEP, you can make changes to your Part D prescription drug plan or your Part C Medicare Advantage plan. Any changes that you make will take effect at the start of the following calendar year.

Many people often mistakenly think that you can also make unrestricted changes to your Medigap plan during that period; however, that is not the case. While you certainly can compare and change your Medigap plan during that period, you do still have to answer medical questions and be approved. It is not, technically, an open enrollment period for Medigap plans though. And, you can compare Medigap plans and change your plan at any time of the year.

How to Prepare for the Medicare Annual Election Period?

If you have either a Part D plan or a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C), you will receive a notice of plan changes for the following year in the mail. This usually comes in late September or early October. It is crucial not to merely disregard this mailing. Some of these plans change drastically each year, and you don’t want to get stuck in a deteriorating plan.

When you receive your notice of plan changes, you should look over it carefully. It should show a side-by-side comparison with the previous year’s benefits. See what changes have been made and decide, based on the plan changes, your satisfaction with your plan, and any changes to your health or finances, whether you want to “shop” for a new plan.

If you do want to shop for a new Part D or Advantage plan, keep in mind that you can only do so during the annual election period, which runs from October 15 to December 7.

Secure Medicare Solutions is a leading, independent Medicare insurance agency. We work with the companies that do Medicare Supplement plans so that you can compare all options in a centralized, unbiased place. We also provide Medigap quotes online by email and can answer any questions that you have. You can reach us at 877.506.3378 or online.

Medicare Annual Election Period is Almost Here

We are approaching the annual election period for Medicare plans. This period runs from October 15-December 7 this year. Plan changes made during this period will take effect on 1/1/15 and will be in place for the following calendar year of 2015.

Contrary to popular misconception, this period has nothing to do with Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans. It only applies to Medicare Part D and Medicare replacement plans like Medicare Advantage. If you have a Medigap plan, you do not have to do anything to renew your plan – it will continue automatically and is “guaranteed renewable”. This type of plan does not change annually like Medicare Advantage plans do.

However, if you do have a Medigap plan, it may be a good time to review your coverage to ensure that you have the plan that is most advantageous to you. Medigap plans are Federally-standardized, so every company provides the exact same coverage plans. It is highly likely, if you have had your plan for more than a year or two, that you are paying above market price for your Medigap premium. If you want to reevaluate your plan and compare it to what is available in your zip code, you can contact us here to get a comparison via email.

If you are on a Medigap plan with prescription drug coverage (Part D), it is also a good idea to reevaluate your Part D plan. Part D is offered on an annual contract, so these plans do change each year. Sometimes, the changes can be very significant. Also, many times, your prescription medication needs change, so it is a good idea to stay apprised of the options on Part D on an annual or bi-annual basis.

You can do this Part D comparison on Medicare’s website at http://medicare.gov. If you are one of our clients, please contact me directly as we provide this comparison as a free service for you.

If you have questions about this Medicare annual election period, please feel free to contact us at 877.506.3378 or online at Secure Medicare Solutions.

Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment

South Carolina Medicare Supplement policyholders often ask me about the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment period, thinking that it takes place at the end of the year (November-December). However, Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment is not a once-a-year occurrence. It occurs only when someone is turning 65 or first signing up for Medicare Part B – NOT each year on an annual basis.

In other words, you can change or add a Medicare Supplement plan at any time during the year, not just during a once-a-year period. Many people do elect to evaluate their options once a year at the end of the year; however, this is not the only time that you can do it. In fact, you are likely to get more attention from the company or broker you are dealing with if you evaluate/change plans in the middle of the year.

Many people get confused about this, in part, because South Carolina Medicare Part D does have a once-a-year Annual Election Period (AEP), and it is November 15-December 31 each year. Also, the Medicare Advantage plans, the privatized version of Medicare, do also have enrollment/disenrollment restrictions, which include a certain times of the year for you to enroll or disenroll from those plans.

Maybe the best time of all to review your South Carolina Medicare Supplements coverage is whenever your rates change. Since coverage is Federally-standardized, there is never any reason to pay more than the bottom-line price for your supplement insurance.